- Reviewed by
ISBN 978-1-62672-682-6 $17.99 R 4-7 yrs
Humpty Dumpty was, by his own account, put back together again at the Kings County Hospital following his dramatic tumble off a high wall, where he regularly went to birdwatch. Mending the body (um, shell) does not necessarily mend the soul, and now fear of heights means the traumatized egg cannot pursue his favorite activities—reaching for the good cereals on the top shelves, sleeping in his loft bed, and, mainly, communing with the birds. His mastery of the art of folding paper planes provides only some of that missing joy, but when a particularly beautiful glider heads over the wall, HD musters the courage to climb back up the ladder. There atop the wall, arms raised in victory, HD revels in his freedom from fear and—quite literally—breaks out of his shell and takes flight as his true nature commands: the egg man is, after all, a bird. There’s a huge wallop of philosophy packed into this picture book, but Santat delivers it with panache, capturing HD’s earthbound malaise with equal parts humor and seriousness. Ladders seem to be everywhere, taunting him with their inaccessibility, and a picture sequence in which he desperately struggles to fold a glider will ring true with fumble-fingered viewers. HD’s epic ascent up the ladder is pretty darn terrifying, and his moment of liberation is authentically exhilarating, making this a more thought-provoking venture than many a comic folklore deconstruction.